Astounded by all the Kissing in Math

Once again, I will start by saying I didn’t always love Math. I struggled with it, and couldn’t figure out how I would ever need it in a life of creative pursuit. Then I had children. Those children are creators in their own rights – with structure and form and spatial relationships. My kids build and design and Math is going to be something they will need on a daily basis in their lives as they unfold. I had to quickly learn to love it, so I could help them become all they want to be. I didn’t want them to struggle, so I delved in to learn the beauty of Math, and found myself quickly caught up in the romance of it.

Last night, my little Bean, my seven-year old, fell asleep with this book on his chest. It is filled with mathematical puzzles, geometric shapes, and some of the most poetic language about numbers I have ever encountered. It is a gift. It is set up in one page increments of inestimable beauty, like little devotions on number theory, full of reverence and awe and breathtaking revelations.

We kept finding the word Kiss in the descriptions of the solar system and the astronomical number theories behind the dances of the planets. Planets are said to kiss as they pass, the patterns the orbits create are referred to as harmonics and rhythmic kisses. He just thought of it as funny. I was on the point of tears.

There are metaphysical principles at play here, which are at once mysterious, haunting, and hiding in plain view.

I get that not everyone sees numbers on a page and understands that there is poetry, nuance and beauty swirling there simultaneously. I am just delighted that I found the way to appreciate numbers as more than objects to induce headaches. There are depths and reaches involved in the study of numbers that could take a lifetime to fully comprehend.

Dream Delving

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This morning, I read an article about working from our strengths. As I read, I remembered how much fun it was working in recruiting, helping people get clear about their dreams and goals. The words Dream Delver popped into my head, and I saw it as the perfect description for what I love to do.

Goals are fun only if they seem attainable, maybe a stretch, maybe involving hard work, but somehow within our grasp. Sometimes, our goals start out so lofty, we have to break them down into attainable bite-sized pieces, so we go after one part of our goal and then the other, eventually gaining momentum and throwing ourselves full strength, sailing through the air to the completeness of our goal.

I like helping people reach their goals. I like helping people become so clear about what they want that they can see it, taste it, feel it, know what it would be like to be there, to have realized it.

Let’s work backwards from the Big Kahuna. Let’s get the end in mind, and then figure out all the steps we need to get there.

Careers have steps, life has steps, creating art has steps to the goals we have in mind. And all along the way, we need to fuel our dreams with passion and vision and visualization and little concrete accomplishments to know we are on the right path.

Diving in, getting started, taking the plunge – all these things are risky and exciting. Sometimes terrifying. Getting out of our own way, kicking to the curb the things that keep us back, that keep us from moving forward are things we sometimes need help doing. I am very good at helping people unscramble their often long dead dreams.

People get stuck in the rat race, in the just getting by, in the daily grind, in slowly whittling away at their dreams by putting them on the back burner in an effort to simply pay the bills. I know. I’ve been there.

And, now it’s time to go Dream Delving. I’m ready. I have my dreams blazing in all the shades of bright and dazzling. I am at my best when I’m helping others name their dreams and plot ways to wrastle them.

Let’s Do This!

photo from here

A Matter of Perspective

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Tao Tuesday – in participation with the Tao Te Ching Daily site by Amy Putkonen.

 

Chapter 79

 

Failure is an opportunity.

If you blame someone else,

there is no end to the blame.

 

Therefore the Master

fulfills her own obligations

and corrects her own mistakes.

She does what she needs to do

and demands nothing of others.

 

First, I read Amy’s essay on this chapter, which is beautiful and wise, and talks about Conflict and the ways we live within it.

I look at our world and the shambles it is in, the conflicts going on all over the place. I don’t even watch the news, because it is so terrifying. But I get snippets of the outside world through social media, which makes me want to hide from the world. I see the grown-ups in charge and I wonder if there is any hope for us at all. There is so much blame, and finger-pointing.

But then, I have to look at myself. After-all, that is what this chapter is about anyway. Looking within, any time there is a conflict, and seeing where I have tried to attach blame. Fulfilling my own obligations – my obligation to live at peace, my obligation to be a calm spot for my family to gather around, my obligation to listen to my children, my obligation to carve out time for me to be still and listen to my own heart.

If my focus is on my obligations, and I am self-correcting my own mistakes along the way, demanding nothing of others, there is Peace in that realm. Obligations seem different from my chores. Somehow, there is a difference. Like my chores are the material manifestation of my heart’s work, my obligations. Let me see if I can unravel that. It’s spun up in my head and trying to work itself out through the practice of writing.

Let me look at my Chores and see what Obligation of my Heart is behind each…

Chore: housekeeping = Obligation: Creating and Maintaining a place of refuge and solace, healing, plenty, a place of warmth and love, a place to call Home.

Chore: preparing meals = Obligation: Sustaining health, vitality, comfort, a gathering time for family, rejuvenation, community, memories around our table, with extra helpings of deliciousness.

Chore: serving my customers, gaining more market share for our business through sales, marketing, and outstanding customer service = Obligation: Partnering with my husband to create a business that can provide for our family, be a service to our community and give us the flexibility to work from home and be with our kids.

Chore: carving out time for me to write, do poetry, share poetry at events in the area, possibly put together my book of poetry in near future = Obligation: My spiritual practice is writing – it is what grounds me, focuses me on the work of being my best self, and brings me to the feet of the divine, giving me a place to be reverent and awe-struck. When I do not make time for this, I am out of balance and clumsy in the world. I bump into things, and hurt myself and others.

What a beautiful gift this has been for me – to see my sometimes endless list of To-Do’s brought neatly into a little package of Why I Do These Things. The reasons behind the chores – the obligations, the gifts I can bring to my family by doing what I need to do and fulfilling my own obligations, my own soul’s work.

And somehow, this started with thinking about Blame. I think I can sometimes feel unappreciated in my work as a homemaker. People don’t see all the work that goes into getting the house or keeping the house neat and clean and pleasant to come home to – I admit to feeling like they should make a big deal out of how nice it is after I’ve spent all day cleaning it. But that is looking at it from the wrong angle, as I so often do. They don’t notice the difference, because I work hard to keep it nice. It should be effortless for others to enjoy a clean house. And I do this for myself anyway.

Understanding the beauty beneath the work of the chores I do for my family, my home, my job, and my soul turns everything into spiritual work. Not to be all dreamy-voiced or anything, but that is so true. How I go about my tasks is the difference between seeing it as thankless work, or seeing it as soul-satisfying. Wow.

photo from here

Calm as Water

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Tao Tuesdays: Thanks to Amy Putkonen of Tao Ta Ching Daily.

Chapter 78

Nothing in the world

is as soft and yielding as water.

Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,

nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard;

the gentle overcomes the rigid.

Everyone knows this is true,

but few can put it into practice.

Therefore the Master remains

serene in the midst of sorrow.

Evil cannot enter his heart.

Because he has given up helping,

he is people’s greatest help.

True words seem paradoxical.

Wow. If I could master this, I would be the calmest, strongest person I know. I guess it’s true of any of us. This is such a difficult concept for me. Shows of force are so impressive, but can also be terrifying. And someone who is in a leadership position doesn’t ever really want to terrify, but inspire or lead or direct passionately. Someone in a leadership position wants people doing the right thing, or the thing that corresponds to the mission because they have been lit from within to do so – not because they are terrified to not do so. Unless the Leader is a Dictator.

It is easier for me to see this from a business perspective than a mothering, because I feel a little like a whack job as a mother sometimes. When I managed an office staff, I could lead without losing my mind. My kids don’t listen to me. They have their own agendas, which include a lot of play and wrestling, and they don’t hear me, they don’t hear me, they ignore me, they do their own thing, until I lose it and raise my voice, and then it’s a bunch of drama and nothing really seems to improve this scenario playing over and over again. I know that I should take things away from them, give them significant consequences, but I haven’t been able to figure out how. What would I take away? Their toys? That seems monstrous and like I would be feeding into their future hoarder tendencies. Their time? Plopping them into a time-out for a designated amount of time to effectively leech moments out of their lives for not behaving, and that has been proven to accomplish little except children feeling like their lives are at the mercy of others and not their own. There are people organized enough to have set time limits on screen time that can be taken away, but I try to limit that to next to nothing anyway, so that doesn’t seem effective at all.

And then there’s this. The calm as water approach. The soft overcomes the hard. And I know it’s true, because when I’m being rigid, little Bean comes up with his soft face and his tiny voice and wants a hug, and I melt. I think the mass of motherhood attempts this, but it comes out as guilt and martyrdom – “Look at all I do for you, can’t you please just…” – which doesn’t work either.

There are all these books out about Calm Parenting, No Yell Parenting, Getting kids to Mind without Losing Yours, and there are great strategies in them, that have to do with reasoning with children instead of maneuvering them. I find it difficult to reason when I’m upset. My reasoning skills go out the window when I’m angry and I start wheedling or whining or sniveling. Good Lord, what made me think I could parent in the first place? But I am being hard on myself. I encourage their creativity in so many ways, and for that alone, I hang on hoping I can learn the rest before they hit teenager and we are all in trouble.

They are good boys. They are reckless and loud and thunderous in this small house. They are getting better at keeping their areas clean, because I’ve gotten better at keeping my areas clean. I have to lead by example. I have to be the Calm Water that doesn’t get freaked out by their energetic displays or knocked over furniture.

The last lines of the Chapter seem incredibly serene, and I would like to try them.

Because he has given up helping,

he is people’s greatest help.

If I could fully grasp in my innermost parts that my job as a mother is truly modeling the best behaviors I know, rather than trying so hard to teach things that are not my own qualities, but ones I want my kids to have – we would be so much better off. If I could do my very best to be my best person, and not worry so much about leading and directing them to be better than I am, more organized than I’ve ever managed to be, more in control of their emotions or outbursts than I can muster, more thoughtful, more polite, more able to control their displays of enthusiasm and wonder than it is possible for me to do.

Oh my word! Freaking AHA moment. I want my kids to be better than me, and in trying to arrange that, I am stressed beyond words and a tiny crazy person on my worst days. Instead, I could work at being my own best person, the characteristics I want in myself, and allow the overflow of the grace I want to show myself trickle into my parenting.

If I gave up trying so hard to mold them into Better Little Versions of Me, and just worked on being my own best, we would all be happier. It involves me being quieter, not thinking I know better, not directing with words as much, listening more, Saying Yes more, playing along more, being aware and alert to the games they are wanting to play in each scene and learning to adapt and develop along with them. Exactly what I was thinking the other day – about Improv Parenting. I love it when everything comes together like this.

photo of The Palace of Fine Arts and pond in San Franciscso from here

Say Yes

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What would parenting be like if we used the Rules of Improvisation in our interactions with our kids? I’m not suggesting this entirely. I’m just wondering.

Right now, I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book, “Yes Please.” I’ve always liked her – but didn’t know what a pivotal player she has been in the world of comedy. I didn’t know that she was a part of the Upright Citizens Brigade and that they have multiple theatres, and give classes (for $5) and trained 11,000 people last year, and, and, oh my word! No wonder she’s sleep deprived.

But in one spot, she shared the basic rules to being a great Improviser. She says you have to:

1. Listen

2. Say Yes

3. Support your partner

4. Be Specific

5. Be Honest

6. Find a game within the scene you can both play

My boys are comedians in the making, if I’d just get out of the way. They want to tell funny stories and get a reaction, and shock their listeners, and be hysterical. They want all that. Sometimes, they act like crazy people and embarrass me and I want them to stop, because I’m afraid they are making me look like a terrible parent, and I endeavor to shut them down or calm them down or stem the tide somehow of all the words pouring out of their mouths at high decibels.

They each had a friend over this last weekend, and one of the boys’ moms hung out with me in the kitchen and drank tea as we began the process of getting to know each other since our kids are friends. When it was time to feed all the little hooligans a snack, my boys were cavorting and theatrical and it literally felt like I needed to apologize that we don’t get out much, and all of a sudden, they had an audience, and all hell was breaking loose. They were fine. The other mom wasn’t horrified, but I found myself wanting to tell them to Shhh, and tone it down, and eat their food and be quiet. I wasn’t coming all the way out and saying that, but my hands were making little gestures, and wishing they would behave more respectably.

It’s just that they WERE behaving exactly like a seven-year old and a ten-year old amped up because they have friends over would act.

So, I’m listening to this book on Audible, and when Amy Poehler gave the rules of Improv, something inside me jumped up and shouted and waved my hand in the air, and asked, “Can I do that as a Parent?” Can I just Listen and Say Yes and Support my Partners (kids) and Be Specific and Honest and Find a Game within the Scene we can all Play? Can I do all that and have more fun, and stop shutting down their creativity because they get loud? What would it look like if I stopped trying to control everything and be in charge so much? I mean, I’m a parent, so I have to be a little In Charge. I have to provide some structure, balance, food and direction – but couldn’t I grow as a person by allowing more Creative Play into our world, and spend less time trying to micro-manage them?

When I have these thoughts, part of me is concerned that I know so little about my job as a parent. Part of me is always fretting that I should be so much better at this, should know more, should be more confident in my decisions. Other people half my age, with younger children, are writing Parenting Books like they’ve got it all together. That boggles my mind. My kids keep changing and growing every single day, and it doesn’t feel possible to keep up with them, let alone be a step ahead of them laying foundations for them and guiding them responsibly. No. I’m a flailing along and spluttering type of uncool mom, just trying every day to be somehow better at this.

I like the idea of trying some Improv Rules while Parenting. I looked that phrase up on Google to see if there are any books on the topic, any other moms experimenting with this, and Google didn’t find a single thing. Perhaps this is a bad idea. Perhaps it’s a fantastic idea, and I’m just the first one to have it. I feel like I should take a little bow.

Words and Thoughts that Change our Molecules

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I like Aha Moments. I’m an Aha Moment Junkie. I have them all the time, and revel in the ways my mind can become excited all over again about a new idea. And then another one, and another one. I’m like a kid in a candy store of thoughts. They’re all so sparkly and shiny and delicious.

Which is one reason I love to read. Writers say things. They put words together in ways that I wish I’d thought to arrange them, because sometimes, just the right turn of phrase changes everything. And Voila! You get your Aha.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, when it was time to do my Tao Tuesday with Amy Putkonen over at TaoTeChingDaily, I did something different. I read a chapter of the Tao written by some silly guys who revere The Dude from the movie, The Big Lebowski. They have written a book called, The Dude de Ching, with their own interpretations of the Tao.

This week, we were looking at Chapter 76, which is about Flexibility, and not being hard or stiff. In the Dudeism version, there was a line that read:

Thus softness and limberness are attributes of Dudeism, and hardness and stiffness attributes of dipshits.

Already, I’d been feeling like my stiff-necked stubbornness and holding tightly to being right were things that needed softening, and some letting go, and some meditation and some release and relaxing. Now, I saw my struggle as me just being a dipshit, which made me laugh.

First, it was about my son. I felt like we knock heads because we both have things to say and want to be heard, and we both feel like we are right – about stuff that doesn’t really matter half the time – but want to convince the other, and we end up being stiff and quarrelsome, and I teach him to be that way, because I don’t want to back down. If I backed down, he could learn that backing down isn’t something bad or wrong or shameful, and he might let someone else in his little world have the last word, and not be the guy who always has to do that. It is so frustrating having to admit that every tiny thing that bugs me about my kids is something I’ve specifically placed into their psyches myself.

And then, it became about my upbringing. And my lack of gratitude. And the last many years of being angry at “The Church” – which has become this industrial complex far flung from anything I ever learned of Love or The Gospel or The Word that started it all, or the One who could calm the Seas, or walk on water, or heal, or restore, or raise from the dead. It struck me that what The Church has become has little to do with my own faith, or my own family, my own Pastor father and partner in ministry who is my mother. It dawned on me that my hostility toward the organization that is now in cahoots with dark and deadly politics has made me forget the work my parents have done – the visiting of the sick and lonely, the bringing meals to those who need nourishment, the compassion and encouragement, the Truth they speak, the Truth they seek and seek to Be.

And all the poetry I used to write, that started with a phrase from Scripture, or a verse whispered into my subconscious by the God I’ve always known – and how strangled my voice has become in recent years, because I wanted so much to spew hatred towards those who have corrupted what I knew, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it, because I couldn’t directly hurt my parents like that – and yet I’ve been hurting them all along by hiding under layers of anger, and hurting myself, and hurting the voice that wants to sing in me.

This week, as I was running errands, it dawned on me that I need to be incredibly Grateful for my upbringing and treasure the heritage I have, the parents who worked around the world, speaking to audiences large and small, staying up late around our dinner table to talk philosophy, theology and Narnia late into the night with seekers and with us, their small children. That in embracing all that love and laughter, is the start of healing. I can’t change The Church that has become. But I can appreciate what I know, what I was taught, and go to my parents to offer up what I can in a way of apology for trampling on their beliefs because I was angry at the way a bunch of Other People where marginalizing and destroying the fabric and beauty of belief.

Which brings me to Amy Poehler’s book, “Yes Please” which I have been reading in hard copy, as well as listening to in the car via Audible, because I cannot get enough of her sweet voice. Yesterday, I heard her Apology chapter, in which she sat on something for years, knowing she had been wrong, but not knowing how to speak the words to make it better. She sat with shame and mourning in her heart, and let that grow and fester. I know that feeling. I sat outside my kids school, waiting to pick them up, tears streaming down my face as I listened to her share how her genuine apology finally transpired, and the reaction of the one she had hurt, and her response.

“Look at this woman. This beauty. What an act of grace. What a gift she gave me… That email changed me. It rearranged my molecules.”

I keep saying how much I want to be a cool, hippy mom. I want to not worry about things. I want to be a Free Spirit and all love and joy and forgiveness, and not so much harpy and stern and snappish. I think I try really hard, and try too hard, and end up getting stiff because my heart, for many years, has been gripped by anger, and not bathed in joy and grace. Gratitude is the beginning. Softness of heart, a yearning to make right the years of looking down my nose at people who still have faith, even with all the stupid stuff official Church keeps doing in the news.

Which brings me to One more Aha for today – It Has Never, Ever been about what The Official Church is doing. As far back as history goes – Official has been on the wrong side of things. They missed the arrival of their own prophets, their own Messiah, their own Savior because they were looking for it to be a different way, a different entrance, something worthy of their Grand Designs, and it was a meek and quiet stable that saw the Beginning instead. Being at odds with the Official Church is something that actually fits well with the Early Church, the Underground, the stuff I was raised hearing around our dining room table. All this anger has been so misdirected. My parents have never been part of the mainstream. They were always more on the side of the Rebels, the Followers of Jesus.

It’s Christmas-time. I feel like The Grinch – like my heart just grew three sizes today.

photo from here.

Lessons in Learning

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Let me preface by saying that after writing today’s reflection, I feel raw because of how much I have to learn. This motherhood thing is ever changing, constant learning, every day more to understand about ourselves and therefore how we parent. I choose to keep thinking that every day I am trying to be better, but a lot of times, I feel the weight of how much I don’t know. I am such a beginner, but with that comes the whole idea of Beginner’s Luck, and boy have I lucked out with wonderful kids, and a wonderful mate who travel this road with me, sorting things out as we go, learning together, and generally having fun.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Today, I am catching up from yesterday – doing Tao Tuesdays with the blog, Tao Te Ching Daily. I am starting late in the cycle, and would like to wind myself around to get through all the chapters. Today, it is Chapter 75. I will share the translation I have and then a reflection.

Chapter 75:

When taxes are too high,

people go hungry.

When the government is too intrusive,

people lose their spirit.

Act for the people’s benefit.

Trust them; leave them alone.

In my world, I am not so concerned with the government, or ruling the people, as I am trying to manage my own household. This speaks to me more of my children.

In a family, having taxes too high, and people going hungry could mean children’s share of the work load of a home, and not having ample time to play and learn through imagination. I don’t think that is a problem in our home. In fact, we could be in danger of going the opposite way and not giving the kids enough chores. Just yesterday, as we were preparing the house for company, I was doing a lot of prep work in the kitchen, and Scott had the boys bringing in wood for the fireplace, and vacuuming the living room. Benjamin, our ten-year old, got super excited to be able to use the vacuum cleaner. Who knew I was keeping him from such an exciting task?

The kids stayed up to watch a movie, and we adults crashed hard from exhaustion. I was awakened with noise coming from the boys’ room and got up to make sure everyone was okay. The noise I heard was Bean, our seven-year old, putting his toys away and clearing his bed off of the stuff he’d been playing with earlier in the day, so he could go to bed. I sat on his bed while he picked stuff up and put it where it belonged. It was so much fun to see him being so diligent and so responsible. He is the youngest, and this idea of putting away his own stuff has taken him a while. I pretty much always have to point things out that he needs to pick up, because his eyes don’t work that way – to see messes. He just sees that his world is full of toys, and where they are versus where they belong is a mystery to him. Until, it seems, last night.

Apparently, I am not overly strict with getting them to pull their weight around here. Scott and I both remember having a variety of chores by these guys’ ages.

But the too intrusive? That is my number, right there. I can be on the micro-managing side of parenting. I hear them arguing and I want to jump in the middle of it, sort it out, have a talk about it, and usually, all of that is too much. Learning to step back and allow them to work things out between themselves is incredibly hard for me to do. But I don’t want them to lose their spirit. I want them to have full confidence in their ability to work through a situation, even an angry one. How else with they learn to negotiate tricky spots, with someone acting unfairly, or someone not taking turns, or someone hoarding all the good toys? These little parts of sibling rivalry is where they learn to understand so many parts of adulthood, and if i interfere, they will have a harder time being grown-ups.

There are so many parts of being a parent that just can’t be learned ahead of time. There is this constant need to adjust, and reflect, and learn to work alongside them instead of hovering or managing. They have such good little brains. They really can do so much for themselves, and feel the accomplishment of doing something.

Acting for their benefit, then trusting them and leaving them alone to handle their business is perhaps the hardest bit of parenting wisdom I have ever heard. But, at the same time, as soon as I read that line, I realized why we have struggles sometimes – because I’m expecting them to be able to act in certain ways, like responsible young people, when I haven’t actually given them the opportunities to learn or practice those skills. I do too much for them. I pick up the messes that Bean can’t seem to see. I do all the housework and feel exhausted, and frustrated that they don’t help more, but they aren’t being given those opportunities. Chores aren’t punishment. Chores are allowing kids to pretend to be big and handle some of the big people stuff of the home, and model our work ethic, and learn to keep their own space someday. Gosh, it’s embarrassing to see these things in print and see how slow I can be at learning to mother wisely.

Today, I am grateful for these little moments of reflection. I am grateful that my heart seeks guidance and wisdom, and that I am willing to learn to be a better mom. I don’t want to be stuck in patterns that don’t work.

Image from here

Days of Soup and Holler

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It seems as if the geese could

bump into each other in this mist,

each screeching into the void

sounding out to the others

calling the way forward

southward, onward toward the

next season, the next warm nest.

 

I can’t see to the end of my driveway,

fog hanging in white, billowing curtains,

pulling me into the story,

some elegant myth, where rooms

are always long and tall and

sparsely furnished, but for the

draperies blowing in from the veranda.

 

And I, out standing in my field,

in layers of scarves, for the same effect,

hair blowing; it’s so romantic,

except for the bucket of hog mash

I carry, and the muck boots

that keep me grounded so I

do not gracefully float

from one chore to the next.

 

But the wild geese squawking

in their dramatic, it’s the end

of the world way – which is

how geese sound all the time,

not just when they can’t see

the path ahead of them; my

geese are always at their wits

end over the trauma of waddling

across their yard

to get food from my hand.

 

Their cries in the grey, leading

others to follow, their beacons

of sound and “We are in this

together,” remind me of

the place in my heart that gets

knit together at the sound of

another’s words, an honest howl

a sigh, a shudder, a tear

that resonates with me, speaks

my whole world in a teaspoon

and I cannot always see beyond

my own feet, my own muck and mire,

but I know there are others ahead

out there in the mist, the fog so thick,

I won’t say it,

I will not say it,

It resembles soup not one bit. What crazy

whimsy would see this as green?

 

Ahead, pushing through panels of white,

gauzy stage wrap, lost in layers,

trying to find the opening

to give a bow or start the narration,

is someone just like me,

struggling, and putting on a smile

because here are the lights,

and here is the show,

and we’ve forgotten our lines,

we’ll make it up as we go.

 

11/20/2014

photo from here

Balance – That Damned Word

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Tao Te Ching – Chapter 74 – with Reflection

If you realize that all things change,

there is nothing you will try to hold on to.

If you aren’t afraid of dying,

there is nothing you can’t achieve.

 

Trying to control the future

is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.

When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,

chances are that you’ll cut your hand.

 

How many times have I tried to play God in my children’s life, in anyone’s life, thinking I somehow know better because of my experience, my time on this earth, my knowledge? How many times have my interferences in the way things are going actually helped?

My older boys are doing just fine. They have figured things out for themselves in spite of me thinking I needed to direct and cajole them into doing things that made sense for me. And they seem to be incredibly happy with their self-directed lives. Bravo.

The younger boys are a little more tense. We all get a tense when I am trying to handle the master craftsman’s tools and making mistakes in the process.

Always, it’s the option to let go of outcomes that is my biggest challenge. Always, it is the learning to be in the flow rather than the bossy person at the head of the ship thinking I can orchestrate the wind.

And in my own life, even, the breathing deep and realizing all things will change would serve me well. I remember being comforted when people would say, “This too shall pass,” when I was in the midst of a hard time.

But the same people would go trying to burst my bubble when all was swimmingly beautiful and I was on a high of gratitude over life. They would say, “This too shall pass,” and piss me off. Why wouldn’t they just let me enjoy the bliss? Because everything changes and staying mindful of the ebb and flow can keep us from getting too worked up over worry. If we revel too much over the good – we only allow for a more enhanced descent into a downward spiral if we’ve built up the mountaintop too much.

Balance. That damned word.

A softer, more in-tune appreciation for the ups and downs, the change that is inherent in life, the non-direction that will keep us flowing through our days rather than fighting the outcomes or trying to orchestrate someone else’s mood – this is my lesson for the day.

I so love Amy Putkonen’s blog, Tao Te Ching Daily, and her Tao Tuesdays series. If I could just remember to be a part on a more regular basis, I might get closer to an internal balance that would keep me centered.

This too shall pass. And I’m off to wake up kids and start our day.

photo from here

Slowly it Dawns on Me

This was painted by Bean three years ago. It should have dawned on me sooner that this may be his thing.
Painted by Bean three years ago, when he was Four. It should have dawned on me sooner that this may be his thing.

As I was hanging the boys jeans up to dry yesterday, I noticed that on every one of Bean’s pants – whether school clothes or grungy jeans – there are paint splatters and smears. When I found him painting something in the kitchen yesterday, I scolded him for not setting up his area first. He was painting without a drop-cloth, or the plastic table cloth we’ve had for years for this specific purpose. I have discovered paint blobs on the kitchen floor, on the stainless steel refrigerator, all over the table – which I cannot refinish until the boys grow out of doing this sort of thing with no setup.

But, this morning, as I was doing another load of laundry, I remembered that long ago, a lifetime ago, I knew a mural painter in San Francisco. Every pair of pants he owned had paint on them. His mother would try to buy super nice, expensive slacks for him to wear if he needed to go somewhere important, like a job interview or something, and she would make him promise not to paint in them. Inevitably, they would end like every other piece of clothing, bedecked with paint.

And I realized, perhaps, my Bean is an artist too. I’ve always known Ben is an artist – he’s been sculpting since he was three. But Bean’s artistry has eluded me a little. He likes to take things apart. He likes to put things together. He likes to make messes and forget to pick them up, but it didn’t dawn on me until just now, that perhaps he’s a painter. He’s deeply philosophical and the world of symbolism and expression through metaphor and visual impulses would make sense to him. I think I need to get him into a class down at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center.

Oh, I so understand the need to create right here, right now, with little or no preparation, sweeping the table clean of whatever happens to be there, and scratching out a moment in time on the page. His may be canvas. Mine is pen and ink. And definitely, in the midst of inspiration, working in a mess can be the least of our worries.

Just as we have Ben’s art area moved out of the house, into a section of Barn for a Studio, it’s dawning on me that Bean may be an even messier artist in need of a space to create. Ben’s mess is scraps of cardboard all over the floor. I have to sweep the carpet before I can vacuum. Bean’s mess will be entirely more sticky. So, where to put his Studio? We will figure it out. We always do.

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